From its very outset RKP has been a different sort of site. We’ve focused on long form writing. Short for us is 600 words and there are whole sites out there that never publish anything north of 400 words. But this site isn’t just about banging on a keyboard until we’re satisfied. RKP was undertaken to present professional work of a variety that wasn’t really being seen elsewhere. Rather than focus on pure journalism, our effort has been to serve as a blend of an op-ed page and a lifestyle section, lending insight where we can while feeding stoke whenever possible. But there’s that little modifier I just used: professional. I spend the majority of my professional life on RKP and I believe the site is at its best when we can provide a diversity of voices. It’s not easy in this economy.
People talk about revenue stream this and monetizing that. I prefer to leave the fancy language for the reviews. As a publisher, I simply want to present the best quality work I can while making a modest living. And I believe in paying the contributors I hire rates that reflect the esteem in which I hold them. Every now and then I’m shocked to find out that what I pay is equal to what sites ten times the size of RKP pay. I know that makes me look like a chump, but when I cut those checks, I sleep better at night.
We’ve tried a few different strategies for recruiting you readers for help. The Freelance Fund was a reasonable success, while our interest in using the email list of subscribers was noisily rejected, so we dropped it, despite the fact that advertisers were ready and eager to reach you through this method. I walked away from what would have been a terrific revenue stream because I didn’t want to alienate the community we’ve built here. Which also means that when I’ve been approached about native advertising (or as some prefer, “advertorial”) I reject that without a pause.
There have been a few developments over the last year that have caused me to think about what RKP should be going forward and how it can best serve you readers. This has been driven largely by two factors. The first is the lingering suspicion some (many?) readers harbor that reviews or more specifically, what is said in reviews, is up for sale or at least up for influence. The second is that the act of selling advertising, when you really depend on that revenue, is a distasteful process. Even when I have someone selling advertising for me, simply overseeing it is a buckshot-filled meal. That’s my conscience talking.
I believe in advertising and I like for RKP readers to see who cares enough about their opinion to advertise to them. I’d be more comfortable selling that space if it didn’t feel like I was donating my children’s blood.
The only convincing alternative to this is increased reader support. By that I mean voluntary subscription sales. If only 2000 of you signed up as subscribers, we’d gain significant latitude. If 4000 of you signed up, we could double the content we publish each month. If 6000 of you signed up, I could drop advertising.
Were we exclusively reader supported, our reviews wouldn’t change. Not the what, not the who. We’d like things just as much as we have. But with increased independence, I’d be willing to chase some of the thornier industry stories that I’ve not pursued because I didn’t want to risk a relationship, even if they weren’t an advertiser.
I’ve gone the reader-supported route once before, with Asphalt Magazine. I’m pleased to say it was working, but we were undercapitalized and simply didn’t grow quickly enough. I think the time has come to do it again. While we don’t offer the fancy paper that Asphalt did, we offer more than 10x the content, so we’ve got that going for us.
In addition to subscriptions, we will offer annual memberships, just like NPR, that will come with premiums. You’ll see those in the store soon.
When you subscribe, you’ll be automatically billed monthly, at the rate that you signed up. The price will never go up. There will come a point, though, where the $3 option will cease to exist. If you sign up at that level and then drop out after we eliminate it, should you wish to sign back up, you’ll have to come in at another level. But for as long as you stand by us, the price will never go up.
As always, thanks for reading.